Holy Week & the Two Gardens
As we approach Holy Week, it is time to put aside concerns of the world and the tumultuous waves of our modern crisis and center our attention on the reason for our very existence. Let us not sink with Peter, who cried for Our Lord to save him because he took account of the wind and the waves.
It is very easy for us to become distracted and upset by the way things in the world are going. For 100 years, Noah preached and warned the world of the great devastation that was coming, begging them to join him in the ark he built. Once the deluge arrived, the doors were sealed, all entry was denied, and all outside the ark perished in the cleansing waters of the flood. One can imagine the terrifying moment the waters crashed into the ark, jarring everyone and everything inside; or the horrible lurching of the ark as it pitched from side to side with the rise and fall of each mountainous wave.
But if we contemplate the waves and the ark for just a moment, we can see a cyclical nature to our human experience: civilizations rise and civilizations fall, but those who remain steadfast in the ark will eventually find themselves resting on the summit of The Lord.
All that we are, all that we do, and all that we come to depends upon whether we live our lives in accord with Our Blessed Lord or in accord with ourselves. It is a tale of two gardens, and the end of the story depends upon which one we choose.
The two gardens I mean are the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Olives. One, a place of light, pleasure, and freedom and the other a place of darkness, suffering, and capture. Tradition holds that Adam was created in the morning, literally the dawn of all time. And he was created after all the rest of creation was made good. Adam was given dominion over all the animals, he was provided an abundance of fruit in the garden, he was free from suffering, filled with God’s glory, and he was given the freedom to wander about without constraint.
Conversely, Our Lord entered the Garden of Olives long after the sun had already set. Where Adam was free from suffering, Our Lord entered into His Passion, effusing a sweat of blood. Adam was completely free from pain while Our Blessed Lord knew only suffering. With his freedom, Adam took the forbidden fruit offered to him by his wife, establishing his own will over the Divine Will of God. Our Blessed Lord, on the other hand, prayed to His Father in Heaven, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” While Adam ate the fruit of a tree which separated him from God’s friendship, Our Lord prayed in a garden with only one fruit – the olive, which has always been a sign in the Church of reconciliation and peace. Adam had the freedom to roam about the garden, but after his sin was cast out from it. Our Blessed Lord, on the other hand, came out from the Garden of Olives of His own volition, was then bound and taken away.
We simply cannot understand the Passion of Our Lord without considering the fall of Adam. Everything about Our Lord’s Passion was an undoing of Adam’s sin and subsequent curse. Adam was cursed in the garden with laboring by the sweat of his brow. Our Lord offered the sweat of His Blood as a means of sanctifying labor. An angel with a blazing sword was placed at the entrance of the Garden of Eden, and in the Garden of Olives, Our Lord commanded Peter to put his sword away after clumsily hacking off the ear of one of the Temple Guards. Following His arrest, Our Blessed Lord was questioned in three courts; the Sanhedrin, the court of Herod, and the court of Pontius Pilate. As Adam was found guilty of grasping at godhood, the Sanhedrin accused Jesus of blasphemy. As Eve was found guilty of tempting her husband into playing God, Our Lord was sent away for refusing acquiesce to the request of Herod that Our Lord perform a miracle for his amusement. And as the serpent was found guilty of telling a murderous lie, Our Lord refused to save Himself as He answered Pilate’s question “What is truth,” by proclaiming that HE is Truth.
When Adam received His curse, God said to him, “Thorns and thistles shall it [the earth] bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herbs of the earth.” During the Passion, men (who were made from the earth) brought Him a crown made of thorns to wear upon His head, and while He suffered upon the Cross, He was presented a drink made of wine mixed with gall – which is a bitter herb.
As soon as Adam and Eve’s “eyes were opened,” they realized they were naked, and fashioned for themselves aprons of leaves, after which God clothed them in “garments of skins.” During the Passion of Our Lord, He is stripped of His garments and practically flayed alive as His body is scourged at a pillar. As we are told in the Apocalypse, He is the “lamb, which was slain from the beginning of the world.”
Tradition holds that upon being cast out of Eden, Adam and Eve “went down” from Eden, whereas Our Lord went up to Golgotha. And while the tree of knowledge of good and evil brought death to those who consumed its fruit, Our Blessed Lord mounted the dead wood of a tree, filling its fibers with the sap of His Blood, and upon His death gave forth the fruit of His Flesh to bring eternal life to those who ate it.
Everything about the Passion of Our Lord is an undoing of the sin and curse of Adam, and so we are left with the example of two gardens: one a place of pleasure that ultimately led to sin and death, and the other a place of suffering and obedience to the Will of God for the provision of eternal life. There is no middle ground between these two gardens, and whichever one we choose will determine where we eventually find ourselves. A life of pleasure and indulgence brings death, whereas a life of self-deprivation and sacrifice leads to life. And in the Words of God, spoken through His prophet, “I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”
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